Cynthia Ozick is the author of the novel Foreign Bodies and numerous other acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. She is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have won four O. Henry first prizes.
From her April 2012 Q & A at the Guardian:
How did you come to write Foreign Bodies?--Marshal Zeringue
A novel can be set in motion by an incident, a character, a location, a mood – by anything at all. Sometimes the stimulus can be an idea, which will rapidly clothe itself in character and incident. Foreign Bodies came about through the contemplation of the contrast between post-second world war America and Europe. In 1952, I had gone to England on a literary pilgrimage, but what I also saw, even at that distance from the blitz, were bombed-out ruins and an enervated society, while the continent was still, psychologically, in the grip of its recent atrocities. Back home, McCarthyism was scaring us mightily, the Korean war was in the headlines, but the country was otherwise booming: the cars were growing huge fins, the arts were burgeoning like mad. I was more than halfway through the novel when it occurred to me that Henry James in The Ambassadors (published in 1903) had seen America and Europe in a different relation – Europe rich in cultural power, and America culturally naked and dependent; and that I had (subliminally?) reversed James's premises. Or, rather, that history had reversed them.
What was most difficult about it?
I most definitely hadn't wanted a character scarred by the Holocaust, but there Lili suddenly was: a survivor of Transnistria, a murderous Romanian sinkhole where thousands suffered and perished. I had no intention of...[read on]